Alan Forrest has warned on-form Hearts not to take their foot off the gas as they bid to pull further clear of their rivals in the race for third place in the cinch Premiership.
The Jambos hold a 12-point advantage over fourth-placed Kilmarnock after winning 11 of their last 14 matches in the league since the start of November.
However, Forrest is well aware Hearts were seven points ahead of their nearest rivals at this time last year before being reeled in and overtaken by Aberdeen, who claimed the reward of automatic European group-stage football.
“Last season we had a gap as well and that shows we can’t take anything lightly,” said the winger.
“If you start thinking too far ahead, it can come back and bite you. We know we’ve not got the right to win any game in this league so we need to stay focused.
“The full team is playing really well now. We had a slow start to the season but we’ve stuck with it. The gameplan has always been the same. What we’re doing now is credit to the staff and the players.”
Forrest, who notched his third goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 win at Dundee, has been key to Hearts’ recent form and he was named as January’s cinch Premiership player of the month on Tuesday after chipping in with four assists in three matches.
“It’s good to get recognised for performances, so the award is great, but the main thing for me is being able to help the team with a few assists and I managed to get a goal at the weekend as well,” said the 27-year-old.
“I think I’ve had a more-consistent run in the team recently and it’s probably shown in my goal contributions.
“Things are coming off a lot more for me now. I’m going into every game wanting to effect it however I can and luckily it’s coming off.”
Manager Steven Naismith recently sanctioned a new contract for Forrest and has been impressed with the way he has gradually grown into a key player since joining from Livingston in the summer of 2022.
“The award is thoroughly deserved,” said the Jambos boss. “He is somebody who came to the club as a squad player, albeit an experienced squad player.
“He’s had to work really hard through his career to get to each stage he’s been at but then at each stage he has been at he’s become an important player, at Ayr United, then at Livingston and then with us.
“His qualities and his ability are really good, we see it every day, but it was always going to be about getting that level of consistency and end product.
“He’s now an experienced player who is a very valued member of our squad so I’m delighted for him because he’s had to work really hard.”
Hearts are hoping to continue their excellent form on Wednesday when they visit a St Johnstone side who have eased their relegation concerns after losing just four of their 13 league matches since former Jambos boss Craig Levein took charge in November.
“From where they were when Craig took over to where they are now, they’re in a much better place,” said Naismith, who was initially brought to Hearts as a player by Levein six years ago.
“It’s always going to be difficult to make big change but the main thing is picking points up and getting away from the bottom of the table and they’ve done that.”
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